Peterborough dad’s pride as children fight serious injuries caused by drink driver
The dad of a young girl and boy who were seriously injured in a crash which also killed their mum has said how proud he is of the two youngsters.
Freya Cunningham (11) was given a 10 per cent chance of survival after the horror crash which claimed the life of her mum, Katy, in January last year.
Freya ‘died’ three times as medics battled to save her life on January 23. Her brother, Zackeri, just eight at the time, suffered serious neck and back injuries, and the siblings were originally taken to different hospitals - Freya to be stabilised at Peterborough City Hospital and Zackeri to Addenbrookes’.
Their dad, Chris, already facing up to the loss of Katy, was told to say goodbye to Freya, as medics feared they would lose her.
But Freya fought on, spending weeks in a coma before bravely standing up out of her wheelchair to walk out of the hospital.
Now both Freya and Zackeri have returned to school but are continuing on their long road to recovery, with both lives changed for ever.
Chris (37) said: “Physically, it is an absolute miracle that they are both here.
“Zackeri suffered a hairline fracture to his neck. I was told if the car had rolled again he would not be here.
“The fracture was not noticed at first, but on the third day in hospital, his head just fell. He was in a soft collar and then a hard collar for five weeks.
“I think there were more broken bones with Freya than non-broken bones. I still pinch myself that she is still here, let alone walking. It is a miracle. She had a 10 per cent chance of survival.
“She died in the operating theatre at Peterborough City Hospital and they brought her back. She died in the ambulance on the way between Peterborough City Hospital and Addenbrooke’s Hospital and they brought her back. And she died a third time and they brought her back.
“That image of her in the hospital bed will haunt me. There was nothing I could do for her.
“She had her mum’s spirit - she is such a fighter.”
While Zackeri was discharged after five weeks, he stayed at Addenbrooke’s with his dad as Freya fought for her life.
They stayed at the hospital for two months before being allowed home.
Chris said: “It was very emotional when we left. Five weeks after Freya was told she would never walk again, she got out of her wheelchair and walked a few steps out of the doors. She said she was going to walk out.”
While in hospital, both Zackeri and Freya ‘shot up’ in height - and Chris was told had Freya been the same height during the crash, she would have lost her legs. She has also not got the full use of her right arm, and may never regain it.
While they are gradually making a physical recovery, the mental scars of what happened are still there.
Chris said; “Zackeri is more open than Freya, and he will sometimes pull me to one side and say he is having a moment, remembering what happened.
“I saw it on Christmas Day - Freya was opening her present and was happy, and then you saw the penny drop that mum wasn’t there with her.
“It is hard to imagine how they can process what happened at their age
“I still relive the accident, even though I was not in the car and I was not there. I’m much more cautious as I’m driving too, always much more aware of what other people are doing.
“So many people think this can never happen to them - it always happens to others. I know I thought that. It can happen to anyone.”
Neither Zackeri or Freya can take part in PE or drama lessons at school, and Zackeri will never be able to play rugby because of his injuries.
Chris said; “The schools have been brilliant. Freya goes to Arthur Mellows, while Zackeri is at Northborough school, and they have been very helpful. They have a good group of friends who have been very good, they have been there every step of the way. One lad in particular who is friends with Zackeri has been amazing, a real credit to his mum.”
Last year a fundraising campaign was organised to help Zackeri and Freya was held, to help pay for items the pair needed, with the rest going to a trust fund they will get aged 18.
Chris said; “It was a bit embarrassing, as I’m not someone who is good at coming out asking for help.
“But there were so many people who came to help, some that we didn’t even know. The Bearded Villains (a community group in Peterborough) organised a charity concert and that was amazing. It shows what a community can do.”